Coming to San Francisco for the first time in a few years brings home how much it has been trans formed. Whatever you call what is happening— a boom, a bubble or a flood of money into whatwas known as new technology before the “new”became redundant — has augmented the city’s reality.
Once, there was a gaping divide between southern and northern California — between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. To the south was the dream factory of fantasy and imagination; in the north was science, hardware such as the transistor and chino-clad venture capitalists who worked in business parks on Sand Hill Road and lived in sprawling suburbia. San Francisco wasa pretty, but unexciting tourist town.
过去，加利福尼亚州的南部和北部——好莱坞和硅谷——之间存在巨大的鸿沟。南部是制造幻想和想象的梦想工厂;北部则属于科学，属于晶体管等硬件，以及那些在沙山路(Sand Hill Road)商业园工作、在不断扩张的广大郊区居住、衣着休闲的风险资本家。旧金山那时是一个美丽，但也平淡乏味的旅游城市。
It feels more like Hollywood now, full of people writing scripts and honing pitches. “Brave new world companies create something that was not there before. They do not just save some body money,” a middle-aged man told a young entrepreneur at a nearby table in a diner on Monday morning. The ingénu should portray his venture as more than “faster, better, cheaper”.
Later that day one venture capitalist described his own firm’s decision to turn down Uber when it was first raising money as “a lamentable failure of imagination”. The partners should have realised that the pitch for a smart phone limousine service in San Francisco implied a platform to revolution is a global transport. Instead of thinking of the legal obstacles, they ought to have suspended their disbelief.
The old things are shrunken — the San Francisco Chronicle is thin and full of wire stories — and others are exploding. An entire district has sprung up around China Basin on the edge of the city; Apple, which used to carve its stores into old buildings, has levelled a building by Union Square to build a Foster + Partners retail temple; the city’s bars are sleek and vibrant.
陈旧的东西正在萎缩——旧金山的编年史不长，充满了新鲜事物——其他的东西则在爆炸。在这座城市的边缘，围着China Basin，一整片城区拔地而起;过去曾将门店挤进老旧建筑中的苹果(Apple)，拆除了联合广场(Union Square)上的一栋大楼，建造了一座由Foster + Partners建筑事务所设计的标志性零售门店;这座城市的酒吧既时髦又充满活力。
Silicon Valley is at one of those historic moments when a set of technologies start to work —and to work together — in unexpected ways. In this case, the interaction of mobile, robotic and artificial intelligence is producing a wave of applications and devices, from voice-activated software to self-driving cars. The machine knows what you want and where you are, and is steadily learning how to serve you.
Andrew McAfee, co-author of The Second Machine Age, describes the experience of being transported in one of Google’s self-driving cars as going “from terrifying to thrilling to boring in15 minutes”. The machine not only drives competently but with tedious predictability, always observing the speed limit and slowing at every obstacle, as if constantly trying to pass adriving test.
《第二次机器革命》(The Second MachineAge)的合著者安德鲁•麦卡菲(Andrew McAfee)称自己乘坐谷歌(Google)自动驾驶汽车的心路历程是“15分钟内从害怕到兴奋到索然无味”。机器不仅能胜任驾驶，还开得极为标准，其驾驶表现毫无悬念到令人厌烦的地步——总能观察到限速标志，在每一个障碍物前都会减速，就像总在参加路考一样。
Behind innovations that have suddenly come to feel routine, such as facial and voice recognition, lie rapid ad-vances in pattern recognition and emerging forms of artificial intelligence. The capacity of computers to sift through databases and comprehend what people are saying, what they mean and what they desire is evolving faster than many researchers had anticipated.
As a result, plenty of investors are eager to throw money at start-ups that look as if they possess a piece of technology and a business idea that will form at least part of the brave new world. The fear of missing out is overwhelming the fear of losing money, as Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital warned recently.
结果是，许多投资者急切地向这样一些初创企业大举投资——它们看上去拥有一样技术或一个商业点子，能至少部分构成这美丽新世界。Benchmark Capital的比尔•格利(Bill Gurley)最近警告称，错过的恐惧压倒了赔钱的恐惧。
History’s famous investment bubbles often formed around such combinations of easy money and fantastical inventions, and some of today’s venture capitalists suffered through the dotcom bust of 2000. Prod them about that and the optimists respond that the $48bninvested by US venture capital funds last year is only half the amount sloshing around at the last peak 15 years ago.
This ignores the fact that a lot of the new money is coming not from venture funds but from other investors, including mutual funds such as T Rowe Price and Fidelity. Three-quarters ofrecent fund raising rounds by “unicorns” — start-ups valued at $1bn or more — were led by“non-traditional” investors, according to a recent study by Fenwick & West, a SiliconValley law firm.
这种说法忽略了一点，很多新投资并非来自于风投基金，而是来自其他投资者，包括普信集团(T Rowe Price)和富达(Fidelity)等共同基金。硅谷律师事务所Fenwick & West的最新研究表明，“独角兽”公司(指价值10亿美元或者以上的初创企业)最近几轮融资中，有四分之三是由“非传统”投资者牵头。
One is Carl Icahn, the activist investor, who this week put $100m into Lyft, a rival to Uber. MrIcahn often makes life difficult for his investment targets but is as enamoured as everyone else with his Silicon Valley picks. “We’ll be the first to admit that you are more knowledgeable in these areas than we are,” he wrote fulsomely to Apple this week.